Legislators pushing for medical marijuana in 2017


Last update: January 19, 2017


Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Jeremy Faison made headlines when they announced a plan to pass an effective medical marijuana law in Tennessee in 2017. Hopefully, the legislature will catch up with the vast majority of Tennesseans, 75% of whom agree that seriously ill patients should have access to medical cannabis, according to a 2014 MTSU poll.

Current Tennessee law is intended to allow some seriously ill seizure patients to have access to cannabis oil containing large amounts of CBD and only trace amounts of THC; click here for a summary of the law. While it does provide protections for a few patients who are able to meet its difficult requirements, it requires them to travel across state lines to a state where cannabis oil can be obtained and return to Tennessee.

Family members should not have to risk arrest and prosecution and travel for hours to access something that could ease their loved ones’ suffering and pain from cancer, multiple sclerosis, or other serious conditions. Please take a moment to encourage your legislators to pass a meaningful, inclusive medical marijuana bill that includes in-state access to medical cannabis.

State AG threatens to derail local decriminalization ordinances

The two largest cities in Tennessee, Memphis and Nashville, both passed ordinances in 2016 that give an officer the discretion to charge someone with a civil infraction for possessing small amounts of marijuana. One of the reasons for this was that the criminal law has been enforced unequally: In 2010 in Tennessee, there were four African Americans arrested for marijuana possession for every white arrested, despite the fact that both races consume marijuana at about the same rate.

Unfortunately, the state attorney general issued an opinion stating that these ordinances were invalid because they conflict with state law. His opinion is not a law, however, and Nashville has pledged to stand by its ordinance.

Even if the ordinances remain in force, they only apply locally and officers could still choose to prosecute an offender under the state law, which carries a harsh penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of between $250 and $2,500. Thus, the controversy highlights the need for statewide reform. Please ask your legislators to support replacing criminal penalties with civil fines for simple possession.

Tennessee slightly reduces penalties for marijuana possession


Third and subsequent convictions for the possession of marijuana used to be felonies, punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000. But in 2016, the legislature reduced that penalty to a misdemeanor, so people convicted of non-violent possession of most drugs will no longer suffer the stigma of a life-long felony record.

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